Chris Avellone, the creative director of Obsidian Entertainment, has spent more than 20 years in the games industry working on titles like Planescape: Torment, Fallout 2 and the Icewind Dale series. He just finished working on Obsidian’s Kickstarter campaign Project: Eternity. At Nordic Game this May, Chris Avellone will take the stage with a keynote talk titled “Rolling the Dice on Fallout: Van Buren”.
NG: What was the first game that really made you aware of games?
CA: For me, it was Grim Fandango. When Olivia Ofrenda recited her poem in the “Blue Casket”, that was the moment I realised games could be art.
NG: Which game has made you most frustrated or angry?
CA: Screaming-at-the-screen-angry? That’s a tough one. For computer games, probably Mario Kart or Descent, mostly because I played with a bunch of jerks back before the Obsidian days. Counter-Strike was a close runner-up (especially Counter-Strike: Global Offensive). For pen-and-paper games, it was absolutely Dungeons and Dragons – we had an encounter that was so bad that one of the players grabbed his 20-sided die and set fire to it (well, burned it) with his cigarette lighter, as if punishing it for the bad roll. When it came to board games, though, we always called Talisman and Illuminati “friendship-breakers”, and with good reason.
Grim Fandango, Magic: The Gathering
NG: Which game have you spent the most time on?
CA: Not necessarily a video game, but I spent way too much time and money on Magic: The Gathering which, while I thought it was a good game, I definitely could have used that time more productively. Still, a lot of the card mechanics, spell ideas and the nature of the game itself were worthwhile to have in the game design memory vault. World of Warcraft was a close second, and it took a two-week press tour in Germany (and away from the game) for me to realise that not only did I feel better, had got color back on my face and dropped 10 lbs, but also that it might be time to break up with WoW for the sake of my health. I still miss it to this day, though.
NG: What game, genre or game mechanic would you like to see brought back the most?
CA: Adventure games as a genre, but they are already making their way back from some of my favorite adventure game designers (Tim Schafer and Ragnar Tørnquist). I enjoy the story and character focus in adventure games very much, and as long as the puzzles have some degree of logic (or like Zork: Grand Inquisitor, a consistent means of foiling that logic in interesting ways), I’m fine with them.
Tim Schafer, Ragnar Tørnquist
NG: What is the best detail you ever noticed in a game?
CA: Of the many inhabitants of “Columbia” in BioShock: Infinite, there are three who are keeping their excessive… interest… in “Booker” barely in check. I thought it was my imagination at first (“Did he just…?”), then I got confirmation from the designer. To share secrets and give back to others, though, if you play Planescape: Torment, keep an eye out for all the “Wu-Tang Clan” symbols from one of our environment artists, who apparently couldn’t help himself, and also when you ask “Nordom” to dispose of his “junk”, he gives you an item that looks like junk but isn’t on a second glance – check it out for one of the most powerful artifacts in the game.
NG: Which game would do well in another media form?
CA: Fallout would be a great HBO series. Just saying. Also, Fallout should have action figures. Just saying. Did I mention that Fallout should have a comic book series, too? Just saying.
Chris Avellone’s keynote “Rolling the Dice on Fallout: Van Buren” is scheduled for Thursday morning, 21 May in the Unreal Theater at Slagthuset. Read more about Chris Avellone on the conference website here and his talk here.
Intrigued? Chris Avellone – game designer extraordinaire – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2015, 20-22 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!